Well, it’s that time of year—time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next one.
Ending a 4-year relationship, moving to new places, and starting a completely new chapter of life have characterized my 2014.
To say it was not an easy year would be an understatement; This past year was a challenging year for me by all accounts.
However, this year was also one of the most important years I've had on this planet of ours—a year during which I had to take a hard look at my life, exercise a large amount of courage, and admit to myself that I was going in a direction that was not authentic for me.
So, here's a quick summary of one of my most challenging, yet important years.
Newport, 2014 – Isolation
Newport, Rhode Island. This is where my 2014 story begins.
I had agreed to move to Newport (to the U.S.) the year before, so that my partner could live near her family in Connecticut, a relatively short drive from the state of Rhode Island.
This was a difficult decision, to say the least, as I’ve never had the desire to live in a small town on the North East Coast of the US. In fact, our plan was always to move to the West Coast, where I felt less like a visitor, and more like I belonged.
Well, I'm sure you know what they say about planning and God's laughter…
Moving to Rhode Island was simply one of those tough compromises that partners sometimes make in order to keep their relationship going. My partner simply could not live anywhere else.
We considered Melbourne, Australia, my previous home base, but after living there for a few months, it became apparent that at this stage in our lives, the distance to my partner’s family would have been far too long.
We thought of buying a beach house in Dominican Republic, but a couple of months in the country was enough to disqualify it from the list. The quality of services was simply not there…
We even lived in Florida for 3 months, just to realize we needed more than good weather to thrive.
Finally, in our ongoing search to find a home base, we settled in Rhode Island—in retrospect, an unhealthy compromise that would set the stage for what was to follow.
For a while, life was good on the island.
Then came winter. A very cold and long one. Temperatures were consistently below freezing from late November to early April. For close to 6 months, I walked around in my black puffy winter jacket, doing everything I could to acclimate to the cold of winter.
Newport was bitterly cold, but it wasn’t the temperature that discouraged me. I actually did better than most locals on that department.
It was something else.
The whole area went into a long and deep state of hibernation. I felt trapped in a stimulation-deprived environment and constantly wanted to escape. I had a strong desire to expand, to grow, to connect… I was yearning to wrap my heart and soul around “my tribe,” to be in a place that roots me in a nurturing, spiritual kind of way.
When body and spirit are not aligned...
Yearnings for a more nurturing place was one thing; figuring out how to heal my body, mind, and spirit was another.
While living in Newport, I started to feel a deep emotional pain inside—the kind of pain when you know you’re not on the right path.
My body reacted to it as well. I started to develop a condition called “tinnitus”–an unending, infuriating, permanent, high-pitched ringing in my ears. You can only imagine how it felt going to sleep every night with the constant sound of “bumble bee” ringing in my ears.
Although the condition is apparently incurable (well, that’s what all the doctors said), I decided not to give up and interviewed people who had some sort of success with it. I even built a site called “Tinnitus Success” to help others with their condition.
Tinnitus and the feelings of deep internal pain were not the only conditions I developed in the first half of 2014. There were quite a few others, but I'll spare you all the details, let’s just say I was breaking down, one part at a time..
I knew had to make a dramatic change in my life.
Boulder, 2014 -– Separation
Around May, we decided to move to Boulder, Colorado—a place that greatly inspired me (and still does).
But moving to a new location has its fair share of stress. You need to find a new apartment, set up new health insurance, build a new social circle, and the list go on.
I still remember sitting near Boulder Creek, watching the flow of water, thinking to myself how much I needed a long, relaxing vacation.
And why not? We had just sold most of our belongings, had no obligations or responsibilities, and could go anywhere in an instant by just saying where we wanted to go. This is who we were after all, or at least who I thought we were....
While my body needed a healing vacation, my soul craved it even more. So I suggested to my partner that we go to Hawaii for a few weeks and heal up before we move ahead with our future plans.
But my partner simply could not do it. She wanted to build a home and nest for raising kids and felt that we’d waste our time and money with yet another trip.
In fact, my partner wanted to start having kids by the end of the year. She had just turned 31 and felt that she could not delay her family dreams any longer.
I can't blame my partner for wanting to follow her dream (you already know I’m all about chasing dreams), but deep down, I knew we were not ready. Our relationship was struggling, our health was taking a downturn, and we had just moved to a new place.
I felt like I had a ticking clock over my head. On one hand, I wanted to build a family and help my partner fulfill her dreams, but on the other hand, I could not ignore the turmoil inside of me.
For a few months, I struggled with the question, but around August, I had a clear answer from within myself.
The answer was an emphatic “no.” Bringing a child into this world – in my physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted condition – would have been unfair to me, to my partner, and eventually to the child.
I had to regain my health, renew my spirit, be in sync with my path, and get to a point of building a family FROM a place of happiness, rather than FOR happiness.
After 4 years of a truly loving relationship, we decided to separate and, true to the nature of our relationship, we did it in the most loving way possible.
When love is not enough…
If there's one thing I’ve learned about relationships, it’s that love is not enough.
You can genuinely love someone with all your heart and still be incompatible for maintaining a long-term relationship.
We love to idealize love as the solution to all relationship problems, but the truth is that we all have our boundaries, things we simply can’t compromise on. For one person it would be moving to another country, for another it would be kids, and for another it would be a not-so-great sex life.
Yes, everything in life involves sacrifice. I’ll be the first one to say that, but a healthy relationship—any relationship for that matter, business or romantic—must feel like a win-win for both sides.
If a relationship becomes a “win-lose” or, worse, “lose-lose” for a long period of time, things will start to break down. There is simply no way around it from my experience.
When my partner and I began our relationship, it was a real win-win all around. We were truly aligned on so many levels. Even the location was not a problem, as my partner was open to building a home in Australia, and I was open to try the West Coast of the U.S.
For a long time we were in a state of bliss, travelling the world, trekking mountains in Peru, building a school in Dominican Republic, kickboxing in Thailand, surfing in Sri Lanka, splurging in Italy, exploring every part of Australia, planning to build a family, a home, and even a retreat together.
But after a while, it all became a “win-lose” for my partner. She wanted to build a home base within driving distance of her family. Then, when I agreed to move to Rhode Island, it became a “win-lose” for me.
The location was not the only thing, of course; other fundamental misalignments started to pop up at the same time.
We were both “off our purposes,” not supporting each other's path, hanging solely on the big love we shared.
True love might be unconditional, but relationships are not. Any healthy relationship needs both chemistry and continuous alignment. Love is simply not enough...
True love is unconditional but relationships are not. Any relationship needs both chemistry and alignment. Tweet that
Israel, 2014 -– Transformation
At the end of September, I packed one suitcase and a small bag, said one last goodbye to my apartment, to the U.S., and to my ex-partner, and caught a flight to Israel with a single goal in mind: renewal.
Renewal of my heart, my health, my body, and most of all, my spirit.
My family lives in a beautiful small town, situated on the slope of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean, a 5-minute walk from a green, hilly national park, and near one of the most pristine beaches you’ll ever see.
I could not have picked a better spot. I was surrounded by rich nature, loving people, and simple existence.
There is one moment that remains very clear in my mind: It was around noon, and I was alone on the beach, at my private paradise. I had just finished a one-hour ocean swim and was floating on the water, exhilarated and smiling.
“Thank you, Thank you” was all my mind and lips could come up with, over and over again, tears of gratitude in my eyes. As new thoughts flowed through my mind, I felt a deep inner peace envelop me.
The last time I had felt that deep inner peace was when I met my partner in South America and traveled with her in Peru.
I knew I was closing a circle...
When body and spirit ARE aligned
In a short amount of time, while visiting Israel, I healed every medical condition I had developed in the previous year: the apparently incurable tinnitus (thank god!), the come-and-go back pains, the sleepless nights, the feeling of deep internal pain—all were completely gone...
Not living my path and compromising beyond what I wanted to, in both the relationship and for myself, contributed to some serious health issues.
A spiritual teacher I met while living in Boulder told me that I was on the sure road to developing something even more serious if I continued to follow my compromised path and ignore my intuition.
Every relationship is here to teach us a lesson, and I certainly learned mine the hard way. I ignored all the signs that were telling me I was walking the wrong path. And that cost me health, perhaps our most precious asset.
I now firmly believe that we all have our own distinct purposes in life, and while it can take a while and some hard work to figure out what it is, we keep getting signals from our body along the way.
In my case, no matter what I did, how hard I worked, how positive I was in the last year or so, I kept getting the same body sensations telling me: “Wrong move, pay attention!”,--like a software program that keeps throwing up a continuous error message.
You see, sometimes the mind can trick us, but the body never lies—it tells all…
Colombia, 2014 – Embracing the body
After a couple of healing months in Israel, and once I had regained all of my energy, I decided to fully embrace the body, and flew to Medellin, Colombia to learn salsa.
Why salsa dancing?
Because dancing is one of the best ways to be fully in your body, and salsa is the happiest form of dance I know. It is also very social and fun, a much-needed kick-off to my upcoming year.
Yes, I could do another big triathlon, which is another great way to be present, fully in your body, in the moment, but when I bought a new triathlon bike, I didn’t feel any desire whatsoever to hop on it.
The body never lies --didn’t we say that already? 🙂
Besides, I needed a new challenge. Dancing was never my forte, and I felt inspired by the idea of becoming a salsa dancer and being able to lead a dancing partner skillfully.
And why Medellin, Colombia, you ask?
For so many reasons, really: it’s vibrant, modern, inexpensive, and it has stunning natural scenery, a great entrepreneurial community, energetic lifestyles, pleasant weather all year round—but more than anything, I flew to Medellin because I listened to a deep voice inside of me.
The logical adult in me actually tried to convince me to stay. Why fly so far and pay thousands of dollars for a plane ticket, when you can learn salsa here for a fraction of the cost?
You see, the logical part of the brain always has a point, usually a very linear and responsible one. But this time, there was another voice, a more intuitive one. It was clear and unmistakable. It said: “GO!”
This time I did listen to my intuition, and after 4 weeks here, I’m so happy I did. So many amazing things have happened here in Medellin, things I could not have planned or predicted if I had only used the logical side of myself.
As Steve Jobs once said, “You can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards..."
2014 – One of my most important years
Every year, around the Christmas and New Year period, I pick one primary focus for the upcoming 12 months. This practice allows me to immerse myself in the chosen area and to spur more growth as a result of it.
Last year, I chose relationships as my primary focus for 2014. And while I did create some very meaningful relationships this year, little did I know that the most important connection I’d be making would be with myself.
In 2014, I came to know more of who I am at my core, what I’m here to do, and what can happen when I lose connection with my purpose and my natural self (i.e. becoming reactive, edgy, fearful, and eventually sick).
I’ve always known that I’m a growth agent who is here to uplift and inspire others to be the best they can be, but what I came to learn this year is that I simply cannot contribute to and uplift others when I’m not inspired by myself, what I do, and where I choose to be.
It’s now clear to me that we all need to be aligned and connected to the environment we immerse ourselves in and to the people we surround ourselves with. They impact every aspect of our lives—our health and well-being, our community and social life, our ability to contribute, and so on. Opportunities may or may not occur, depending on who you know and what resources are at hand.
In 2014, I learned to listen very carefully to that deep voice within, saying, “No. Stop. This isn’t right...,” urging me to keep true to myself, my values, and my integrity.
I also learned to pay close attention to my body, so that I know what conflicts with my soul and then take the appropriate action despite my fears, doubts, and the more primitive part of the mind that just wants to stay comfortable.
Perhaps most importantly, I learned that real power comes from living the truth of the present moment, rather than in some idealized future.
For a long time, I tried to push circumstances, live in places that don’t contribute to my growth, and connect with people who don’t share my values. I ignored my intuition, diminished my feelings, denied my inner-knowing, and sacrificed my well-being, all in an attempt to make things work.
My unwavering devotion and uncompromised commitment to finding solutions for everyone has actually worked against me this year and blinded me from seeing the whole picture.
I now know that not every challenge is meant to be taken up and that in order to serve others, I first need to honor my own authentic self and inner guidance.
Flipping a page to 2015
2015 is going to be a direct continuation of where the last year ended: focusing on strengthening my spiritual energy, which I believe is the most powerful source of energy one can have.
Spirituality is the most worthy pursuit for me right now, as it allows me to fulfill my purpose of being a vehicle for growth and manifest larger possibilities in this world, but do so from a more authentic place that is completely in sync with my creative nature.
I'm also going to approach things a little differently this year. Instead of my usual sequential process that involves step-by-step goals and fixed habits, I’m merely going to set flexible intentions.
You see, true progress in spirituality is about fully creating the future in the present moment rather than doing it from the past.
In other words, a “spirituality goal” is not meant to be predefined or to follow a fixed order, as each step we take on this journey has the power to transform the journey itself. This is true for other types of goals as well, but more so with spirituality.
Now, as spirituality is a very broad and abstract word, below is a long list of specific intentions I set down while writing this post. They represent what I would consider as progress in the spirituality realm (in my case, anyway):
- be in touch with what is needed in the moment, rather than becoming too fixated on an outcome and how it should be implemented
- strengthen inner peace and emotional wellbeing
- reduce the voice of my inner critic
- find truer ways of expressing my authentic growth-oriented self and tune into my own creative nature more naturally.
- focus more on where I am right here, right now.
- check in with my inner knowing of the truth and trust my own perceptions rather than getting caught up in the content and automatically believing the words of others.
- focus on connecting with those who actively pursue growth, spirituality, and personal development.
- connect and align with people in a way that is fulfilling for both sides (i.e a complete win-win)
- eliminate idealization and see reality as it is (i.e stop projecting a false reality on a situation)
- reduce judgments and see the perfection of others as they are, where they are, and with whatever choices they have made - even if it’s not how I would do it
- learn how to be more present with myself
- be more aware of my body, its sensations, and any feelings that arise in the moment + understand why they are occurring (i.e continue to explore and synthesize internal conflicts)
- be in touch with my intuitive knowing rather than solely relying on the logical part of my brain
- release my attachment to a certain outcome and instead be fulfilled with what naturally occurs
- be more open to the unknown (i.e less planned or follow a sequential order)
- be less impatient and let go how of how things should be (i.e stop forcing things, just allow)
- be more vulnerable and become conscious of the vulnerability of others
- expand my perspective and be more inclusive (i.e embrace paradoxes)
- continue to examine myself, my beliefs, and my actions. (i.e never stop questioning)
- don’t let devotion and unconscious sacrifice become an obstacle to my growth (i.e provide appropriate support and stop sabotaging my power through inappropriate sacrifice)
- allowing the truth to be flexible and fluid without the need to protect it.
- not define myself in terms of others.
- enjoy stillness and serenity (i.e not taking up every external challenge)
- eliminate neediness and the fear I won’t get something from others
- contribute in a way that supports those around me and at the same time aligned with my higher purpose.
- instill the belief that everything is working out as it needs to and that universe is there to support us
- focus on the larger purpose instead of being preoccupied with the little details and getting caught up in the management process.
- give from a generous and abundant place rather than give in order to prove my value or due to being overly responsible. (i.e simply give for the joy of giving rather than seeking praise)
- not hold on to what I need based on the past. Instead, focus on with what is needed in the moment (by evaluating my emotional truth in the present)
- be a person of high value, something which will naturally attract the right people (vs. neediness and chasing around)
- allow things to happen naturally instead of trying or forcing things to happen
- not getting caught up in glamour, idealism, drama, excitement, and unconscious dynamics.
- ground my spiritual and manifest that potential in physical ways.
- operate less from the head and more from an inner knowing reference
- accept my weaknesses (and strengths)
- work with friends, peers, and business partners in a more inclusive and co-creative way (not do everything on my own)
- invest in people and focus on building growth oriented relationships
- encourage people to find their own ways of expression rather than conform to one specific way of life
Again, these are merely intentions that can change along the way. I’m also not going to set any hard deadlines. Currently, my intention is to focus on spirituality throughout the whole year, but I might change it to half a year or even less, depending on what I think will be most helpful in the moment. I’m simply going to let things unfold and trust that I’ll know when I should change an area of focus.
I do have a few ideas of more concrete, measurable goals that inspire me and support my intentions this year like doing a 30-day yoga challenge in Thailand or Bali, but I’m not going to commit to anything at this stage. I’ll decide as the year progresses.
I might also start writing my first full-length book at some point this year, depending on my intuition and the continuous feedback that I get from the universe.
Well, that's quite a different approach than what I’m use to. Let’s see how it all unfolds 🙂
Wherever you are, however you’re feeling, and whatever your plans are for the New Year, I wish you blessings of joy in your journey.
Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating the next generation of leaders to their true potential.